Qin Shi Huangdi

Qin Shi Huangdi (秦始皇帝 pinyin qin2 shi3 huang2 di4), or Qin Shi Huang Di ( 259 -210 BC), named Ying Zheng (嬴政 ying2 zheng4), was King Zheng of Qin during the Warring States Period prior to becoming an emperor. He unified China and proclaimed himself the First (shi) Emperor (huangdi) of the Qin Dynasty, as he was the first Chinese sovereign able to rule the whole country. He reigned from 246 BC to 210 BC.

"Huang" and "Di" were titles once reserved for the eight legendary kings (three Huang and five Di), so by employing the term "Huangdi", Ying Zheng indicated that he was even greater than the eight legendary kings combined. He believed that his family would rule China forever and so he wanted his successors to be titled "Emperor of China II", "Emperor of China III", etc.

He gave China a common currency and a standardized systems of weights and measures, writing characters and local prefecture administration. Endless labor in the later years of his reign (including the link-up of the Great Wall of China and construction of the first canal (Lingqu) in today's Guangxi Province, an inconclusive campaign against the Huns, and the widening and paving of countless roads all over China) started to provoke widespread discontent. The emperor was still barely able to maintain stability by his tight grip on every aspect of lives of the Chinese. He also travelled frequently to large cities in Northern China to inspect the efficiency of the bureaucracy and to symbolize the presence of Qin's prestige. Nevertheless his trips provided chances for assassins, the most famous of whom was Zhang Liang.

He did not like to talk about death and he never really had written a will. When he died suddenly at the palace in Shaqiu prefecture, two of his high officials (the Imperial Secretariat Li Si and the chief eunuch Zhao Gao) persuaded his second son Ying Huhai to forge the Emperor's will. They forced his first son Ying Fu Su to commit suicide, stripped the command of troops from Meng Tian-a loyal supporter of Ying Fu Su-and killed Meng's family also. Ying Huhai became the second emperor. The Qin Dynasty soon collapsed, three years after Qin Shihuangdi's death.

He was believed to be buried with the Terracotta Army near Xian, but his body has yet to be discovered (The artificial mountain where his body is believed to rest has not been excavated).

He was interested in immortality and visited the Zhifu Island. His such deeds became a popular story of him sending a Zhifu islander as the religious leader of ships with hundreds of young men and women in search of the pill of immortality. These people never returned, and the myth said they settled down in one of the Japanese islands.

Qin Shi Huangdi in fiction

The movie The Emperor and the Assassin focused on the identity of his father, his heartless treament of his officials, and betrayal by a concubine, paving the way for Jing Ke's assassination attempt.

The 2002 movie Hero tells the story of assassination attempts of the king of Qin by legendary warriors. Though the king is not named during the film, he does express his dreams of unifying China and the assassins consider him likely to fulfil them. So he is probably King Ying Zheng.

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